July 6, 2022

'Like a prison': Beijing and Beijing tighten restrictions on the spread of the Corona virus

‘Like a prison’: Beijing and Beijing tighten restrictions on the spread of the Corona virus

  • Shanghai is asking some to stay home, not to receive deliveries
  • Part of the push to eliminate infection by late May – sources
  • The Chinese capital, Beijing, imposes the most severe restrictions so far
  • Lawyers question the legality of the crackdown as anger grows
  • China’s export growth weakest in two years

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s two largest cities tightened COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, raising public concern and even questions about the legitimacy of its relentless battle with the virus that has hit the world’s second largest economy.

In Shanghai, as the sixth week of the lockdown continued, authorities launched a new campaign to end infections outside quarantine areas by late May, according to people familiar with the matter. Read more

Although there was no official announcement, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts received notices over the weekend that they were not allowed to leave their homes or receive deliveries, leading to a scramble to stock up on food.

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Some of these people were previously allowed to move around in their apartment complexes.

“Go home, go home!” A woman shouted over a megaphone at residents mingling under an apartment building affected by the new restrictions on Sunday, a sight that could baffle the rest of the world who have chosen to open up and coexist with the virus.

“It was like a prison,” said Koko Wang, a Shanghai resident living under the new restrictions. “We are not afraid of the virus. We are afraid of this policy.”

Meanwhile, in Beijing’s toughest restrictions to date, a district in the southwest of the capital on Monday banned residents from leaving their neighborhoods and ordered a halt to all activities not related to virus prevention.

In other hard-hit areas of Beijing, residents were asked to work from home, some restaurants and public transport were closed, and additional roads, parks and parks were closed on Monday.

The restrictions have taken a heavy toll on the Chinese economy.

Data on Monday showed China’s export growth slowed to its weakest in nearly two years, as the central bank pledged to ramp up support for the sluggish economy. Read more. Read more

In a stark sign of business stress, the China Automobile Association estimated that sales last month fell a staggering 48% year-on-year as coronavirus restrictions closed factories and slashed domestic demand.

The restrictions have also sparked rare expressions of public anger, further fueled by recent online accounts of authorities in Shanghai who forced neighbors of positive coronavirus cases into central quarantine and demanded them hand over the keys to their homes for disinfection.

One of the videos showed police opening a lock after a resident refused to open a door.

In another case, an audio recording of an internet call circulated of a woman arguing with officials asking for disinfectant to be sprayed in her home even though she tested negative. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.

Professor Tong Qiu, Professor of Law at East China University of Political Science and Law, wrote in an article widely circulated on social media on Sunday that such acts are illegal and must stop.

“Shanghai should be a good example for the whole country in how to carry out COVID prevention work in a scientific and legitimate way,” Tong wrote.

Liu Dali, a lawyer from one of the largest law firms in China, wrote a similar letter to the authorities.

Copies of both letters were blocked from the Chinese internet even though users reposted screenshots. Posts from Tong’s social media account were blocked on Weibo late Sunday.

Liu and Tong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China is adamant that it will stick to its COVID-free policy to combat the disease that first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Authorities have warned against criticizing a policy they say saves lives.

They point to the rising death toll in other countries that have relaxed, or eliminated, restrictions in an effort to “live with COVID” despite the spread of infection.

“We must insist on regulating the flow of people and controlling their movement,” the Shanghai municipal government said in response to questions by Reuters about the latest restrictions.

She said a “one-size-fits-all” approach should be avoided, and each region was allowed to tighten measures according to its own situation.

On Monday, Shanghai recorded a decline in new cases for the 10th consecutive day.

Beijing had hoped to avoid the weeks of lockdown that Shanghai has endured, but the growing number of apartment buildings subject to lockdown orders is worrying residents.

“I just rented an apartment in this complex, and I didn’t receive any notice,” said a 28-year-old woman in Changping District in northern Beijing who surnamed Wang after being prevented from leaving her compound on Monday.

“I’ve already been working from home but am worried I’m running out of daily supplies.”

Residents received notification later Monday morning that positive cases had been detected in the area.

A nanny who lives in the same compound said the closure meant she was unable to get a new job.

“Today is my first day at work, and now I can’t go out,” said the 40-year-old, who gave her name as Maisie.

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Additional reporting by Brenda Goh, Zhang Yan, Winnie Zhou, David Stanway, Martin Quinn Pollard, Beijing Editorial Room; Writing by Ryan Wu and John Geddy; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.